SAN ANTONIO SPURS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Spurs had another excellent regular season, earning the top seed in the Western Conference by posting a 61-21 record in the regular season. However, the playoffs were a disappointment for the Spurs as they were eliminated in six games in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies. Their longtime stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are now another year older, but could be helped by a lockout-shortened 66-game season. If they are going to make one more run at a title with this group of players, this season could be their best and last chance.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Tony Parker will again be the teamís starting point guard and should play 30-35 minutes a game. He will be backed up by free agent signee T.J. Ford, who will likely play 15-20 minutes a game. Manu Ginobili will be the starting shooting guard and should play around 30-35 minutes a game. Gary Neal will serve as the backup shooting guard and should play 15-20 minutes a game. The Spurs have decided not to use their amnesty provision on Richard Jefferson, who is slated to be the teamís starting small forward. He should play 25-30 minutes a game. Rookie Kawhi Leonard is slated to be the backup small forward and should play around 15-20 minutes a game. James Anderson will serve as a backup small forward and shooting guard and could play 5-10 minutes a game. Tim Duncan will start at power forward and should play 30-35 minutes a game. DeJuan Blair is expected to be the teamís starting center and should play 25-30 minutes a game. Some of those minutes could also come at the power forward spot. Matt Bonner should also see about 20 minutes a game as a backup at small forward /power forward. Tiago Splitter will likely play 15-20 minutes per game as a backup power forward and center. Hoping to land a spot on the roster and a limited role on the bench are forwards DaíSean Butler and Gani Lawal and guards Cory Joseph and Antonie Hood.
DeJuan Blair: The Spurs are a veteran team, but Blair is one of their few young players who will have a prominent role. He averaged 8.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season while shooting 50.1 percent from the field in 21.4 minutes a game. With the expectation that he will play more minutes this season, look for his fantasy value to increase.
Tiago Splitter: Although he only averaged about 12 minutes a game, Splitter showed signs of promise last season. He finished the season averaging 4.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.3 blocks per game. Splitter should see a jump in minutes with the release of Antonio McDyess, which should help boost his fantasy value.
Tim Duncan: Duncan will again be counted on to carry the load down low for the Spurs. He is really their only offensive option in the post, although he did score a career-low 13.4 points per game last season. Heís still a valuable fantasy option based on his high field goal percentage and useful averages per game in both steals and blocks.
Richard Jefferson: The Spurs were considering using their amnesty provision on Jefferson, but they decided to keep him around for another year. Jefferson had a rough season in 2010-11, averaging only 11.0 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. The one bright side for Jefferson is that he averaged a career-high 1.7 three-pointers per game. Still, given his limited role in the offense, heís going to have marginal fantasy value.
Kawhi Leonard: Leonard averaged a double-double to go along with 1.4 steals per game last season for San Diego St. He will provide the Spurs with some much needed youth, but he will open as the backup behind Richard Jefferson. He could provide fantasy value based on his defensive skills and his ability to rebound, but donít expect a lot from him offensively.
Matt Bonner: Bonner provides the Spurs with more value than he does fantasy owners. The one area that he really helps fantasy owners is shooting from distance, as he averaged 1.6 three-pointers per game in 21.7 minutes last season. If someone gets injured up front and Bonner is forced to log heavy minutes, he could help fantasy owners looking for help behind the arc.
James Anderson: The Spurs do have some older guards, so Anderson could provide fantasy value if someone is injured and he is thrust into a prominent role. Other than that, his value is limited at best.
DaíSean Butler: Butler spent time in the D-League last season and would be one of the last players off of the bench if he is able to make the team this year.
Gani Lawal: Lawal is unlikely to make the team this year and would be buried on the bench if he does make the roster.
Tony Parker: While he was limited to only 56 games in 2009-10, Parker was healthy last season and was able to play in 78 games. He shot 51.9 percent from the field last season, marking the fourth time in his career where he finished the season shooting over 50 percent from the field. When healthy, Parker is a valuable fantasy option with career averages of 16.7 points, 5.7 assists and 1.0 steals to go along with a 49.3 field goal percentage.
Manu Ginobili: Ginobili was finally a full-time starter last season and averaged 17.4 points, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.9 three-pointers per game. While he always seems to be dealing with some sort of injury, he has been able to stay on the court, having played at least 74 games in four of the last five seasons. Look for him to be a valuable fantasy option again this year as a member of the starting lineup.
T.J. Ford: Injuries have really limited Ford, as he has only played in 88 games over the last two seasons. The Spurs really need him to stay healthy as their main guard off of the bench. If he does stay healthy and gets consistent minutes, he could provide fantasy owners with value in both steals and assists. If Parker were to miss extended time due to injury, Fordís value would see a significant boost.
Gary Neal: In his second season with the Spurs, Neal will take on a more prominent role following the trade of George Hill. Heíll be counted on to provide an offensive spark off of the bench, and while he did average 1.6 three-pointers in 21.1 minutes a game last season, his fantasy value is limited since he doesnít provide much in any other category.
James Anderson: Anderson spent time in the D-League last season and is unlikely to play a significant role with the Spurs this season.
Cory Joseph: Joseph was picked in the first round of the draft this year, and while he does have some upside, he doesnít project to play much for the Spurs this season if he makes the roster.
Antoine Hood: Hood is unlikely to make the roster this season and would play very limited minutes if he were able to somehow make the team.
DeJuan Blair: The Spurs need Blair to come up big this season and are going to give him a chance to play a more prominent role. Although he has averaged only 19.8 minutes per game in his two seasons in the NBA, he has career-averages of 8.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. If Tim Duncan or another frontcourt member misses time with injuries, Blair could log major minutes. He may not be a flashy sleeper candidate, but he should provide owners with solid fantasy value while being available in the mid-to-later rounds in many drafts.
Tim Duncan: Duncan has seen his minutes-per-game average decrease in each of the last five seasons, resulting in a career-low 28.4 minutes per game last season. The Spurs try to rest him as much as they can, and while he will be helped by the shortened season, the Spurs will also be forced to play more back-to-back games than usual. Duncan also averaged only 8.9 rebounds per game last season, the first time in his career where he failed to average at least 10 rebounds a game. While Duncan is certainly still valuable, he is being selected early in drafts based more on past performances instead of what kind of player he is at this stage of his career.